How do I increase writing productivity?

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Answered by: Victor, An Expert in the Exercises and Advice Category
Creative Change of Venue

Sitting in the same chair every day, facing the same desk, with the same discord sprayed across it and the same wall behind it can be incredibly boring. And when bored, I tend to search for things to un-bore me, which usually does not involve writing, the task I had in mind to begin with.

While rearranging your desk or moving its position every so often is good, and often helps dispel any illusions of static creative energy, you can’t do it all the time, or in my case, there isn’t any room to rearrange my desk area, because of cramped living quarters. Constantly rearranging every time you feel distracted will lead to lots of rearranging and won't increase writing productivity.

Why not just take your writing somewhere else?

I like fresh air, I like being out in the world, and so long hauls at the desk in a cramped office does more harm than good to my writing. I’ll sit for hours staring at that blinking cursor, clicking through my music library, and fiddling with stuff on my desk before the cabin fever gets to be too much and I call a friend and go out somewhere—somewhere without writing.

The first time I participated in National Novel Writing Month, I wasn’t sure how I felt about taking my writing away from the safety of my desk. Going to a crowded restaurant with other writers sounded like a terrible idea. I’d be too distracted, right?

Thankfully, my first conceptions about it where wrong.

Sitting at a table, a plain table at that, with my laptop in front of me and my headphones in, I found that there was nothing to distract me (other than tidbits of conversation here and there, which were more often than not refreshing, and helped clear my mind for more writing), and I wrote more there than I had been for the previous bits of the month. From then on, I went to every write-in I could attend.

When the month of November ended, I was floundering. My novel was finished for that month, but I wanted to get working on my other project. Sitting at my desk, I found distraction after distraction. That’s when I took matters into my own hands: I packed up my writing bag and headed to the closest coffee shop.

Once again, with a clean table in front of me, my laptop plugged in, and my headphones on, I got to writing, and made surprising progress through my manuscript. I was shocked, relieved, and extremely happy when I left. Productivity feels AMAZING.

Coffee shop writing, however, can get expensive, so I have a few pointers here.

You don’t always have to go to a coffee shop. While they tend to have a pleasant mood and delicious drinks, plus a few outlets, they are not the only places you can go to get those creative juices flowing. Libraries work great, plus they are free. If you have good battery life, or like writing by hand, parks are a lovely alternative as well, with fresh air and pleasant weather (sadly only certain times of year), and are also free. University students can generally just waltz anywhere on campus, plop down, and bam!, just about anywhere is turned into a venue for creativity.

If you still want the delicious drinks and mellow vibes of a coffee shop, I do, however, have a rule which I always abide by. If I am going to spend five dollars on a coffee, I want the stay to be worth it. I always scout out an outlet before I order, and claim it immediately. I also always go out of their rush hours, so that the café is generally quiet. And, once I have that five dollar coffee, I make sure that I stay long enough, and write enough, that it was worth the money. If I haven’t written at least 1,000 words, I need to crack down and get it done, or I don’t deserve the coffee.

For those of you (like me) who get distracted by things on the internet, pick a place that does not have wifi. They are difficult to find in this day and age, but there are still some places left without wireless internet, so hunt them down and use them. Disconnecting from the internet for a while might help you. Sadly, I like updating my Twitter about my writing progress, so a lack of internet frustrates me more than helps, and adds more distraction.

A creative change of venue may be the golden ticket you need to increase writing productivity. Try it some time. The lack of the usual culprits of distraction can really help.

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